The USCIS posted a reminder to F-1 students working on OPT and OPT STEM about monitoring the duration of all periods of unemployment as exceeding the cumulative allowance can leave a student without legal status and impact future change of status filings. One of the most common RFE’s issued in H-1b cap cases is demanding proof of status of students who have engaged in any type of employment whether OPT, STEM OPT, or CPT. The USCIS has created a helpful counter to assist. During this time of COVID as instances of temporary unemployment have become more common, this is a timely reminder.
Lawsuits against the USCIS do work and spur change. As a result of a class action lawsuit filed by AILA member Rob Cohen, which challenged the post-approval delays in EAD issuance, USCIS will now allow people to show the I-797 approval notice as proof of authorization to work:
See this update on I-9 Central
The USCIS stated:
Due to the extraordinary and unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency, the production of certain Employment Authorization Documents (Form I-766, EAD) is delayed. As a result, employees may use Form I-797, Notice of Action, with a Notice date on or after December 1, 2019 through and including August 20, 2020 informing an applicant of approval of an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) as a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, List C #7 document that establishes employment authorization issued by the Department of Homeland Security pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 274a.2(b)(1)(v)(C)(7), even though the Notice states it is not evidence of employment authorization. Employees may present their Form I-797 Notice of Action showing approval of their I-765 application as a list C document for Form I-9 compliance until December 1, 2020.
The DOL has recently announced that the USCIS has agreed to start sharing data with the DOL regarding potential LCA violations that are detected as part of a non-immigrant or immigrant petition filing. For example, if an H-1b worker is transferring her H-1b petition from Co. A to Co. B and the last pay-stubs presented are not current, there may be a failure to pay the required wage violation which the USCIS would refer to the DOL for potential investigation. For employers following the rules and paying all wages required and at the correct level, this is good news as increased enforcement may level the playing field from those cos. that are not in compliance.
On Jan. 31, 2020, USCIS published the Form I-9 Federal Register notice announcing a new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This new version contains minor changes to the form and its instructions. Employers should begin using this updated form as of Jan. 31, 2020. Employers may continue using the prior version of the form (Rev. 07/17/2017 N) until April 30, 2020. After that date, they can only use the new form with the 10/21/2019 version date. The version date is located in the lower left corner of the form.
The major changes are to the form’s instructions, which include:
1. Clarified who can act as an authorized representative on behalf of an employer
2. Updated USCIS website addresses
3. Provided clarifications on acceptable documents for Form I-9
4. Updated the process for requesting paper Forms I-9
5. Updated the DHS Privacy Notice
Possible H-1b abuse by Uber ? Check out this report in the Mercury News. The report that they are filing for senior level software engineer positions at a level 2 OES wage appears to be a direct contravention of well-established DOL rules. Hopefully, after this practice has been brought to light, the company will take corrective action or if not, the DOL will investigate. For the legal immigration system to work well and not open itself up to extreme restrictions, U.S. employers must play by the rules.
Yes, H-1b fraud is real; less prevalent than the White House would have you believe but, more prevalent than many in the industry want to admit. As a recent CEO discovered, fraudulent acts can lead you to prison. Check out the story of this CEO who was recently sentenced to 7 years behind bars.
It is being reported by Forbes, that ICE has now started site investigations of OPT STEM workers to verify that their employment is in compliance with USCIS regulations and policy. The 2 primary questions they are likely to address are: 1. Is the student being paid at least a Level 1 prevailing wage ? and 2. Is the student being provided training by their employer in accordance with the training program (I-983) submitted to the school and the USCIS ? As an employer, now may be a good time to audit your OPT STEM workforce and insure that you are in compliance.
Last week, the DOL released a memo in the form of Field Assistance Bulletin 2019-3 reminding employers about the notice requirements relative to LCA’s in the context of the use of electronic postings. Many staffing companies have difficulty posting LCA’s at 3rd party worksites. As a result, many employers and third party providers, began posting LCA’s on their own web-sites (completely accessible to the public) in an attempt to comply with the notice requirement. In this memo, the DOL made clear that this action alone is not sufficient to meet the notice requirement. The DOL states that simply because a 3rd party employee can visit an H-1b employer’s web-site is not sufficient notice if he does not know he should. Further, the DOL goes on to state that the 3rd party employees must be able to determine which notices/LCA’s are applicable to their work-site. We continue to take the position that a database of notices/LCA’s can be a part of a compliance program but, must be accompanied by additional actions. Feel free to reach out to me directly for more information.
The USCIS recently issued a revised version of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form. This form must be used beginning on September 18, 2017. All existing storage and retention rules for Form I-9 must continue to be followed. As you know, employers use the Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of newly hired employees. In this latest revision, the USCIS modified the List of Acceptable Documents to include adding to List C the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240), combined all certifications of report of birth issued by the U.S. Department of State (Forms, FS-545, DS-1350 and FS-240) into List C, and renumbered all List C documents except the Social Security Card. Additionally, the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices was changed to its new name of Immigrant and Employee Rights Section and removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day or employment.”
Please contact your HLG attorney if you have any questions about the new form, how to do an internal audit, E-Verify or with any other immigration or employment verification questions.
On August 7, 2017, the Ninth Circuit upheld charges against DLS Precision Fab LLC, a now bankrupt sheet metal company, which resulted in $305,000 in penalties for employing unauthorized immigrants. In this decision the court rejecting the company’s arguments that a rogue HR director was to blame.
DLS was found to have failed to comply with the INA’s worker verification requirements and employed more than a dozen individuals known to be ineligible to work in the U.S. DLS attributed its failure to properly vet employees on a rogue HR director who, unbeknownst to it, shirked compliance to the point “of literally stuffing the government’s correspondence in a drawer and never responding.” The Court was not persuaded by this argument.
The bulk of the charges stem from I-9 violations. I-9 violations are not merely violations when filed but remain continuing violations until DLS is no longer required by law to retain them (three years from the date of hire or one year after termination). As for retaining eligible employees, the clock starts upon termination. DLS was therefore not able to use the statute of limitations as a defense.
While these appear to be a pretty blatant violations, it is still a good reminder that properly vetting your employees and maintaining your I-9 records is very important.